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Let’s Read Alabama builds book exchanges

Volunteers with Let's Read Alabama build weatherproof bookcases in various sizes and decorating schemes. CONTRIBUTED
Volunteers with Let’s Read Alabama build weatherproof bookcases in various sizes and decorating schemes. CONTRIBUTED

MADISON – In spring 2015, Madison neighbors drinking coffee on a back porch on Seina Vista Drive conceptualized “Let’s Read Alabama,” a grassroots fight to improve literacy with free, neighborhood book exchanges.

Those neighbors discussed why Alabama residents struggle with quality of life. “They knew 20 percent of children and adults in Alabama were functionally illiterate. People who struggle to read also struggle to hold minimum-wage jobs and maintain households,” Mark Richerson said.

Let’s Read Alabama will focus on needier areas in North Alabama. Key founders are William Richerson, a senior at Bob Jones High School; Laura Richerson with COLSA; and Tracy Deberry with Victory Solutions.

Their solution, Let’s Read Alabama, is a non-profit charity dedicated to improving Alabamians’ lives by raising literacy rates. “Our initial mission is to build, install and stock 200 free, neighborhood book exchanges,” Richerson said.

For a book exchange, volunteers build a weatherproof bookcase in various sizes with a decorating scheme. Holding up to 40 books, a book house is placed in a volunteer’s home or apartment’s front yard to allow neighbors to exchange books freely.

Many exchanges target youngsters. “Students who aren’t exposed to books early or don’t read outside school often stay behind their peers in education and jobs,” he said. “Exchanges operate on an honor system of ‘leave a book, take a book, read a book'” at no cost.

Currently, book exchanges are placed at 1015 Seina Vista Drive in Madison and in Mayfair and Mill District neighborhoods in Huntsville. Exchanges are under construction in Hazel Green, Monrovia and Owens Cross Roads. Four more are planned for Madison.

Let’s Read Alabama is not affiliated with any library, but organizers are working on collaborations with other organizations.

A book exchange costs $60. Let’s Read Alabama’s fundraising goal is $12,000 to build 200 book houses.

To donate a book, place it in an exchange. To donate a large number, call 256-652-7632, email to letsreadalabama@outlook.com or visit Facebook/Let’s Read Alabama. To donate cash, visit gofundme.com/letsreadalabama.

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